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Skills and youth – Building the future for Derry / Londonderry

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The contribution of the Derry/Londonderry ICC Project to skills and young people.
28 January 2021 - ERNACT  project
Saverio Romeo | Lead Expert for Derry ICC 

The EU funded Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) project started in late 2020, when cities were going back to a most probable new phase of lockdown due to Covid-19. The first phase of the Covid-19 crisis had been a sort of unexpected test for cities. Social distancing and lockdown rules exacerbated existing challenges such a urban mobility and rising unemployment and brought new reflections on the future of cities that should strong consider the rise of smart working, the need of new social spaces, the essential role of sustainability, and a revamped relationship between urban environments and rural environments. 
The ICC project, the evolution of the Digital Cities Challenge, adapted its approach to the context described previously. The overall intent is to create a wide community of EU cities and beyond the EU and together faces the challenges of a contemporary and, hopefully, post-Covid-19 urban scenarios. 

The ICC Derry Launch Event
The city of Derry/Londonderry was part of the Digital Cities Challenge, which results were a fantastic insight for digital transformation strategy of the Northern Irish city. The insights from the Digital Cities Challenge were incorporated into the Strategic Growth Plan for the city and used to help get a City Deal for Derry/Londonderry. The city is in a unique position in relation to the other cities. Since January 2021, it is a non-EU city in the project. But that has not demotivated the City Team, composed by Derry & Strabane City Council, ERNACT and the external Lead Expert. The on-line launch event of the 20th of January showed the commitment of the City Team, but, most importantly, showed the desire of Derry/Londonderry to get involved in the project. The event showed a lively community, from academia to entrepreneurs, running several skill development initiatives, with great ideas to discuss further and implement, and, most importantly, very aware of the challenges young people face. All that supported by a strong Derry & Strabane City Council Skill Strategy. In Derry/Londonderry, there are solid foundations to work on to take reskilling and upskilling to a more powerful level. The ICC project wants to contribute to that. Let us explore how.

The strategic focus of the Derry/Londonderry ICC Team
The structure of the ICC project is ambitious. It aims to support the community of cities in tackling key thematic areas for cities: green economy, supply chain and logistics, citizen inclusiveness, upskilling and reskilling, and green tourism. However, a city cannot address all these topics together in just two years. Therefore, there was a need to prioritize and select one or two of those areas. The Derry/Londonderry city team run several interviews with key city stakeholders to identify the area of focus. Based on those and on the clear and robust digital transformation strategy of the city, upskilling and reskilling was selected as city priority within the ICC. The discussions with stakeholders also highlighted the importance of focussing on skill initiatives for young people. 

  • The first layer “Skills and future for all” focuses on engaging with boys and girls in secondary school and guide them towards an understanding and appreciation of work environments as creative places, where satisfaction and opportunities can be achieved. This layer also looks at young people out of education and work and how to engage them through training. 
  • The second layer “Derry Young Opportunity” is about communicating to young people that Derry/Londonderry is a place in which there are interesting opportunities to work and create and that can be transformed in a life opportunity. The objective is to create the perception that Derry/Londonderry is a place to be and thrive. 
  • The third layer “Skills for the future” focuses on providing skills in advanced and cutting-edge technologies. Those skills represent are enablers for the previous layers, but, most importantly, they match the skill need of the advanced Derry/Londonderry business system.

There are then tolls and platforms transversal to the layers. Those should create a ubiquitous, easy-to-use, and unique access to training and skilling initiatives in Derry/Londonderry, but also to coaching and matching services in the city. 

Derry/Londonderry ICC Strategy Development
This strategy has been developed taken into strong consideration the existing Derry & Strabane City Council strategy on skills and the Northern Ireland strategy on skills. The next step was identifying potential initiatives to develop the strategy. 

The initiatives for “Skills for future” aim at promoting and spreading training in advanced technologies such as open data, XR (Extended Realities), IoT, Industry 4.0. They also aim at promoting entrepreneurship and mentoring in high tech and the creative industries. Finally, to respond to the enormous challenge of the hospitality sector, there are also initiatives around green tourism and digital tourism skills. 

The initiatives for “Derry Young Opportunity” are essentially two. The first one, “Talking about tech, creativity and life in Derry”, builds on an existing Derry & Strabane City Council marketing initiative on young people and jobs. The initiative wants to focus on the message that Derry is the location for a successful career in digital technologies and the creative sector. The second ambitious initiative aims to develop a virtual and physical centre, in which young people and employers can meet, discuss the skill needs, and explore ways of developing those needs through training. This initiative can also be a tool.
The initiatives on “Skills and future for all” are built on existing experiences. The “Entrepreneur in residence” aims to bring an entrepreneur or a technologist in secondary schools and youth clubs to develop projects with students and young people. Instead, “Kids with potential” is more about inspiring young people to engage with technologies and creativity through the exchange with ambassadors that could be role models.

Regarding “Tools and platforms”, the “Derry/Londonderry Skill Youth Centre” has been discussed already. The ICC Team also believes that there is a need for a unified web portal for training and skill initiatives in the city. That is a unique point of access for young people to see what Derry offers in skill developments. The initiative, called “Derry Skill and Training Portal”, could have a cross-border horizon, bring together the Londonderry region in the UK and the County of Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. 

The next step – Towards the implementation phase
The work done so far needs to move to the implementation phase. It is important to be realistic and to understand that not all the initiatives can be designed and deployed. Therefore, there is a selection phase to undertake. The Derry/Londonderry ICC Team wants to run that phase exploiting the key tool of collaboration. Collaborating with existing ICC cities focussing on similar themes is key for learning about best practices – the team has already engaged with the House of Skills in Amsterdam, the Digital Business Hub in Pori, and being active protagonist in the ICC Skill Group. However, it is even of greater importance the collaboration with Derry/Londonderry stakeholders. 

The outcome of the workshop will be the design of two or three initiatives to implement in the next phase of the ICC project. 

Conclusions
Derry/Londonderry’s future lays on the hands of a vibrant young population. That population needs to be nourished in terms of skills. The city also needs to demonstrate to them that Derry/Londonderry is a place to live and thrive and that it is not a city of the past, but a city that looks at the future without forgetting the past. 

The ICC project launch event has shown a city up and tuned to that challenge with a landscape of active and motivated stakeholders moving within a local council strategy on skills second to no one. The ICC Derry/Londonderry ICC Team wants to build on this rich environment, bringing the value of collaboration with other cities and the knowledge of experts, and glue even more the local stakeholders around feasible and desirable initiatives that can positively impact young people in Derry/Londonderry. 

Stay tuned, collaborate with us, and work for the youth and the future of Derry/Londonderry!



Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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